Emergency approval nearing for COVID-19 vaccine in preteens and teenagers

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:31 PM CDT
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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - About 50,000 more people in Shelby County could be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week. That’s because the FDA is poised to give Pfizer emergency authorization for its vaccine to be used in those 12 to 15 years old.

LeBonhuer Children’s Hospital cares for some of the sickest kids in the Mid-South. Some of their conditions are making them high risk for serious COVID-19 disease.

“Ever since we started vaccinating parents have asked when is it going to be available for children,” said LeBonheur Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Nick Hysmith.

It could be a matter of days as Pfizer is seeking FDA emergency authorization for its vaccine to be used in those 12 to 15 years old. People 16 and older are already eligible.

Hysmith said it’s encouraging news and he hopes more ages will become eligible by the end of the year.

“I think it’s encouraging that [Pfizer] isn’t just aren’t coming out and saying okay everyone greater than five or six can have this vaccine,” said Hysmith. “Instead they’re taking it one step at a time.”

Other parents have concerns. Many of those concerns center around the time frame in which the vaccine was developed.

“What is important for everyone to realize is we didn’t at all skip any steps in this vaccine,” said Hysmith. “We just did everything really quickly.”

Hysmith will go as far as to say the COVID-19 vaccine tops the list of safe childhood vaccines for him.

“This vaccine in my opinion is the safest we’ve had so far,” said Hysmith. “This vaccine while it took us a long time to get to this point, from a technology standpoint it’s a very simple design and it has very low risks for adverse effects.”

The CDC has an adverse effects reporting database. It reports allergic reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine happening in two to five people per one million people. Death has been investigated in .0017 percent of the cases.

The City of Memphis plans to waste no time in getting vaccines to those 12 to 15 once the Pfizer vaccine gets emergency authorization for that age group.

“At the earliest opportunity once we receive approval,” said City of Memphis COO Doug McGowen. “We won’t pivot midday if it comes midday, but the very next day we’re able to we will offer vaccines to those 12 and up.”

Like those who are 16 and 17 and currently eligible for the vaccine, minors will have to have a parent or guardian present during the vaccine administration to sign paperwork.

“We’re going to encourage parents and grandparents and caregivers and guardians to have your young people vaccinated just as you do for a number of other diseases,” said McGowen.

As more adults in Shelby County get vaccinated, the proportion of pediatric cases is growing. For most the pandemic cases in children made up about 11 percent of total cases. Over the last 30 days, they have been nearly 19 percent of the total.

“The ones who haven’t been able to get vaccinated yet are sort of a population of individuals that are not immune to the virus,” said Hysmith.

He said getting kids vaccinated will be an important part of getting back to normal.

“Getting this vaccine in these children prior to camps and things that are starting in the summer and especially prior to us getting back into full-time classrooms will be paramount,” said Hymith.

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